Looking after children

Parents still tend to talk about their rights concerning their children when a relationship breaks down. The courts however focus on the children’s rights and your duties to your children as parents. You will both have responsibilities for your children but they have real and urgent rights.

The terminology has changed.

For example there is no longer “custody” or “access rights.” These were changed to residence and contact but even that terminology has changed.

The language now is of “Child arrangements orders” and “Time spent with” each parent.

The courts will not get involved with your arrangements for your children unless you ask them to settle a disagreement.

Any dispute will be decided on what the court feels is best for the child, even if that feels unfair to one or other parent.

It is vital for the future emotional well being of your children that neither parent uses them as a tool or bargaining chip in any battle against the other parent. Children can cope with divorce. What they cannot handle is conflict between their parents.

Remember that they love both of you and cannot be expected to take sides.

All mothers, irrespective of marital status, have automatic Parental Responsibility for their children from birth as do married fathers. At the moment however, only non-married fathers who are named on the birth certificate since 2003 have Parental Responsibility but a mother can grant it to the father by signing an Agreement. If she refuses then the Courts can, and usually will, grant Parental Responsibility to the father.

Maintenance for all children of both parties’ is dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service or CMS, provided the father resides here, or is a member of the Armed Forces posted abroad. Otherwise, the Court can order maintenance to be paid in those circumstances where the CMS has no authority, for example; for stepchildren and to order the payment of school fees.

An application for a child arrangements order is made to family court and an initial hearing is fixed when it is decided how best to resolve the problem. The Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service [CAFCASS] are involved by the Court and the officer will contact both parents before reporting back to the Court in 6 – 8 weeks if necessary. The CAFCASS Officer will present a formal report to the Court along with the parent’s statements. If necessary the Court will decide the outcome after a full hearing of all the evidence.

If both sides agree then issues relating to the children can be resolved quickly but if there are disputes involving children the process can be drawn out and complex.

It is essential that you have specialist legal advice throughout this process to ensure that your children’s interests are put first.

Contact us to make an appointment today; remember we cannot advise you if your partner has instructed us first.